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Human resources, employee benefits and COVID-19

Top considerations for employee benefits professionals in addressing COVID-19

As exposure to COVID-19 becomes more real, it’s imperative that employers proactively communicate and take action to ensure a safe environment for employees while keeping business operations running. But while many employers are dusting off their pandemic plans for general guidance, now is the time to re-evaluate those policies and procedures to ensure they align with current business needs and address other, less obvious concerns that could impact your organization as a whole.

Here are four HR and benefits strategies that every organization should consider when preparing to address COVID-19:

1) Revisit your business continuity plans

Before your organization begins implementing policies and procedures to limit employee exposure to COVID-19, you may want to take another look at your business continuity plans. What are the core functions that are absolutely necessary to keep your business operational, and how will enterprise-wide policies impact them? For example, encouraging the majority of your employees to work from home may seem like a no-brainer, but an expansive telework policy could put a major strain on your resources and network bandwidth. And don’t forget about hourly employees or those who are unable to work remotely — how do you keep them safe while limiting exposure? Your business continuity plans should provide you with a knowledge base to build on, helping you enact policies that keep your people safe and keep your essential functions — like payroll — operational.

2) Remind your people about the benefits that are available to them

Don’t wait until employees have been exposed to COVID-19 to communicate with them about benefits resources — remind them about the benefits and programs they have access to right now. By communicating how existing benefits, like telemedicine or your employee assistance program, can help in advance, your people will know exactly where to turn should they be diagnosed later. To maximize effectiveness, make communications consistent, targeted and omnichannel – accessible via email, your benefits and intranet sites or a mobile device.

3) Educate your employees on market volatility

Stock prices rise and fall every day; in fact, stock market gains and losses can last several weeks or months. But knowing what to do — and not do — during difficult times of market volatility can help your employees better manage their retirement savings. It’s important that employees take a long-term view and stay true to their established overall asset allocation plan that supports their specific retirement goals and timeline, even during challenging times.

4) Stay one step ahead

As COVID-19 continues to spread, employers should continue to monitor and adjust their plans as necessary to keep pace with employee and business needs. Frequent communication with employees will continue to be key, and don’t underestimate the large impact that small changes – like limiting in-person meetings and travel – can have on keeping your workforce healthy.

Additional guidance on how to proactively prepare for COVID-19 can be found on the WHO website.